Despite seventeen straight years of property tax increases, the city of Warwick is currently in the red. More money is going out than coming in -by the millions- every single fiscal year. The city of Warwick, today, qualifies for bankruptcy.
The Warwick Fire Department has never been able to prove that FD compliment count directly correlates to taxpayer cost burden. Whether it's 178 firefighters or 220, the WFD cannot seem to get it's excessive hiring, OT, holiday or sick pay bonus costs under control.
The old argument of the not too long ago past was, "if we hire more firefighters, OT will be reduced". This has never happened. The WFD --currently exceeding its full compliment-- has already blown through 70% of its OT budget of $1,340,000 this FY which ends June 30th. During the 3 year (2012-2015) "wage freeze" the average firefighter made in excess of $45,000 in overtime for the 3 years.
Chief McLaughlin has recently hired 8 more firefighters over and above the full compliment required from a graduating class of 24. The fire Chief refers to the "extra 8" as "8 bonus personnel". These "extra 8" --we don't even need-- will cost Warwick taxpayers $366,000 + benefits just for this remaining fiscal year alone.
The "extra 8" firefighters hired are all family members of existing Warwick City employees.
But that's not enough.
In addition to the major OT problem, the WFD also has issues managing their unused sick time. Last year, the city council agreed to increase the fire fighter unused sick pay bonus by 50% which left Warwick taxpayers with a minimum of a $932,500 per year debt (up from $345,000) , which increases by 1.5% every 6 months.
It is strongly speculated (from city records request data) that the way the WFD sick pay scam works is that Firefighter A calls Firefighter B to work his/her shift (for whatever reason, say for example, to go to URI to work on a painting contract). Firefighter A calls out sick (substitution) is paid for the day, is not docked one of his 20 sick days, and Firefighter B is paid overtime for the shift covered. The scheme rotates from man to man in the department, no one is charged off a sick day, and the overtime goes thru the roof.
From now, until the year 2049, this rotten deal will cost Warwick taxpayers $34,502,500. (34.5 million)
As of last Jan.1, 2016, the Warwick fire department has banked 22,875 days of unused sick time costing Warwick taxpayers of $8.47 million dollars in liability. The Warwick City Council and Mayor knowingly agreed to the ridiculously lucrative increase, that jumped the liability as of 7/1/16 to $12.7 million.
That's still not enough.
The WFD Local 2748 Union President, William Lloyd, has suddenly had a miraculous revelation: challenge the Fire II, Tier 2 pension system.
The Warwick Fire I pension plan pays retired fire fighters a COLA payment equal to the amount the active firefighter receives in raises each year, which is 1.5% through FY 2018.
The Warwick Fire II pension plan is broken down into Tier 1 & 2.
The Tier 1 plan includes members hired before 6/30/2012 and retire after completing 20 years of service. Tier 1 retirees receive a 3% COLA upon retirement.
Tier 2 members are those hired after 6/30/2012 and retire at age 50 or older and with at least 25 years of service. Tier 2 benefits include 2% of FAC (final average salary times years of service).)
A Tier 2 pension plan change was implemented by the City back in 2012 to reduce pension costs and improve the city's ability to pay future pension obligations. These Tier 2 pension plan changes over 37 years (until 2049) would supposedly save the Warwick taxpayers $9 million, or $243,243.00 per year. However, what taxpayer savings are actually being realized when Mayor Avedisian cut the sweet deal with the WFD last year and increased their sick pay bonus by 50% which will cost Warwick taxpayers $34.5 million over the next 32 years? Not saving a penny.
To show just how unsustainable the Fire II, Tier 1plan is right now with retirees receiving a 3% COLA-- these recently retired Warwick firefighters >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
receive a monthly pay check of two times the amount listed since the benefit is semi-monthly. So for example, Former Chief Armstrong will receive an annual pension of $97,975. That means in 19 months, he will have received the same amount of money he contributed into the pension fund throughout his entire career.
All of the individuals on this list will exceed the total amount of money they contributed to the pension fund in under 36 months.
If we calculate Chief Armstrong's total amount of pay from the retirement system over the next 20 years based on the 3% COLA, he will receive a total of $2,632,625 while only contributing a total of $157,329 to the fund. His annual pension by that time will be $171,800. This is clearly NOT sustainable and the Warwick Firefighter Union realizes this, yet they still want more. They are now challenging the revised Tier 2 pension plan changes and want to bring back the more lucrative benefits that they will never earn and that the Warwick taxpayers can't afford even today. The level of greed is baffling.
Warwick fire Union President William Lloyd stated the reason for suddenly starting to grieve the Tier 2 pension plan changes that were made back in 2012 was because the Warwick firefighters have had to contribute more into their pension plan.
Welcome to the club, or not.
Now, Mayor Avedisian is "disheartened" with the actions the firefighter union is taking. Mayor Avedisian has known all along that the gravy train would eventually run off the track as he has been the main conductor. It has been Mayor Avedisian who negotiated all of these union contract deals over the past 17 years that helped him keep his political seat. But yet it looks like the knife is coming out by local 2748 and it's aiming right for the back of the Mayor.
Local 2748, what do you think Warwick taxpayers have been doing for the past 17 years every time property taxes have increased? Generously paid for your salaries, your healthcare (retirees pay nothing), your OT, new equipment, new vehicles, your deceitfully banked sick time, your costly holiday pay, and have paid into your massively unsustainable pension plans that are bankrupting the City.
Outspoken, concerned Warwick taxpayers have been warning for years that the city of Warwick is heading full speed right into the bankruptcy wall. Concerned citizens have been mocked, ridiculed, harassed, ignored, lied to, chastised, bullied, and heckled right inside their own city council chambers, online, by email and at their places of employment --for years --while speaking out against the corruption and greed that is slowly destroying a once beautiful, thriving city. City leadership did nothing but kick the bankruptcy can further and further down the road while ignoring the voices of concerned Warwick taxpayers.
So when is enough, enough for Local 2748? Maybe it will be when the City of Warwick files for bankruptcy and there will be no options on the table? I'd like to see how Local 2748 grieves that.